Discussion in 'Nikon' started by scottferris, Jun 19, 2009.

  1. I know a lot of photographers like to use primes, and that there are lots of plus sides to the use of primes, especially wide open. So my question of pure opinion, is what primes do you like to use? Which ones would you recomend? I'm looking into buying better glass to use on a DX format body, and while I've got good zooms I was thinking about picking up some good used primes.
  2. Great title to this posting Scott, I can relate to it well.....
    What sort of photography are you intending primes for?
  3. I do a LOT of action work, but have also been known to walk around town and shoot from the hip. I occassionally do weddings and events too, some days I shoot portraits, and then other times I will do something completely different. I don't like to work myself into a niche and buy equipment specifically for it, because I could get bored tomorrow and want to do something else. But, on the other hand I do shoot a lot of action/sports.
  4. The 85/1.4 Nikkor 77mm filter size and the Nikkor 180/2.8 are the two prime lenses that continue providing superior picture quality on DX and FX.
  5. oh, another quick addition to the question, should I be looking for DX or 35mm format primes, auto focus or manual focus, etc.?
  6. My primes are all full format, and when not shooting dance competitions, I ordinarily have sufficient time to plan my shots. I am particularly fond of my 85/1.8 and 180/2.8
  7. My favourites are:
    20mm f/4 Ai - small, light, sharp and contasty. Good for so many things, but makes you work.
    24mm f2.8 - easy to carry and sharp. One of the best primes.
    35mm f/2.5 - so light and yet with low distortion and close focus capability.
    45mm f/2.8 - my favourite prime. So contrasty and colourful it is nearly bursting.
    55mm Micro. All these are great - so sharp they almost cut - and they won't break the bank.
    85mm f/2 - Lovely portrait lens - and easy to carry for landscape work too.
    100mm E - Top pocket lightness, top drawer sharpness, bottom $$ price.
    105mm f/2.5 - "The One"
    200mm f/4 - Sharp yet smooth. Makes a cracking landscape lens - and will not set you back too much cash. The Ai'd early type with 'C' coating is a cracker.
  8. i'm really starting to like my sigma 30/1.4...mmmmmn.
  9. Scott, if you're into skateboarding (I checked your profile) then get yourself the Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye prime, it's a top shelf piece of glass for DX bodies.
  10. My favourite prime when I used to have a DX camera was the 24/2.8AFD... the 35/1.8AFS has been released later. I think I`d have prefered this one.
    There are not so many DX primes, it all depends on the focal lenght you need. Certainly some primes are not interesting for DX.
    AF or MF lenses? Thinking on my needs my answer is definitely AF. My eyesight don`t let me to focus MF lenses accurately on dim light, or as fast as I`d like on AF camera screens. I use them on my D700, but in real life, with MF lenses I need to put extra care and time trying to get perfect focus. Many times it means to loose the pic.
  11. People tend to overestimate "good old primes". Of course, they are the cheapest ans most lightweight option if you need F2 or better, but that does not say they are good that wide open. If you can live with around F8, you are far more flexible with a good zoom, and get the same quality. That's my fivecent oppinion only, of course.
  12. Wow ian, that pretty much covers any focal length I could need! Thank you!
    Rene, I'm not expecting primes to suddenly make me a better photographer, and I understand that just because they CAN do f1.8 doesn't mean they will necessarily do it well. For me it's just something I'd like to mess around with and experiment with. As I mentioned in my second post, I don't like to keep doing one thing for too long...photographer's ADD you could say.
  13. Nikon's "old" FX primes are really not what you want. They ghost and flare more than you'd expect from a modern prime. Still, I have and use a Nikon AF 24/2.8, but I wouldn't necessarily suggest it to a friend :)
    Primes that I own and recommend:
    • Nikon 10.5/2.8 fisheye: fast, sharp, much CA, but easily correctable
    • Sigma 20/1.8: nice wide-angle macro, focuses almost down to the front lens, nice bokeh
    • Sigma 30/1.4: ultra-fast, moderate wide angle, very sharp
    • Nikon 35/1.8: fast, sharp, light, cheap, excellent value
    • Sigma 50/1.4: fast, sharp, big, best bokeh in class
    • Nikon AF 50/1.8D: fast, sharp, light, small, cheap, excellent value
    • Lensbaby 2.0: a specialty lens, can be fun
    • Sigma 70/2.8 Macro: ultra-sharp macro lens, doubles as portrait and general use lens, no distortions
    Primes that I own and wouldn't recommend:
    • Nikon AF 24/2.8: ghosts, flares, usable but not great, though I like the focal length
    • Nikon 50/1.2: manual focus, hard to focus wide open, sharp, creamy bokeh, made some nice images with it
    • Nikon 85/1.8: ghosts, purple fringing wide open, fast, nice bokeh, but I would recommend the Sigma 70/2.8 instead
    • Sigma 150/2.8 Macro: Big, good macro lens, little use on the streets, because it's too heavy and not stabilized
    Send me an email or comment on my blog if you need a detailed opinion about a certain lens.
    See my lens index for images taken with these lenses.
  14. When I need to shoot snapshots or vacation photos or anything where quicker decisions need to be made, give me a zoom every time. I think EVERYBODY should have a "standard zoom" of some kind, and even the very cheapest kit lenses yield good image quality these days.
    That said, when I'm shooting for "fun", I enjoy putting on a prime and moving my feet way more.
    I have a 35mm AF-S (DX), I just got it, like it a lot. I have a 50mm AF-D f1.8, I've had it for three years and like it a whole lot. I have a 30-year old 55mm f3.5 micro and it's my favorite lens, even though I have no metering or AF. My Tokina 11-16 f2.8 gets treated like a prime a lot, since it's basically always stuck at 11mm.
    I want an 85mm 1.8, and I'd love a 180mm f2.8, but will probably get some 80-200 AF zoom instead someday.
  15. I think once upon a time, when zooms were new, they weren't very well designed. Single focal lenses had a hundred years development behind them and were clearly better. Things are different now though. With the advent of computer design, aspherical elements, and modern lens coatings the current line up of Nikon (and Canon etc.) pro zooms are clearly equal if not better than the old single focal lenses. I tried the so-called "prime" lenses and was very disappointed with both optical performance and the limitation of a single focal length. I ended up dumping them for Nikon's best f2.8 zooms. The problems I were getting included flare, lots of CA, and the old problem of missing fast breaking shots because of having the wrong lens on. I see single focal lenses as specialty lenses. I do have a Sigma 30mm f1.4 for use when the light levels are too low even for my f2.8 zooms. So far I haven't used it much. Image quality is just slightly less than my Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 at 30mm. When one becomes available I will likely buy a Nikon 300mm f4 VR and sell my 80-400mm VR. With the 300mm I should be able to attach my TC-17E. And that's about it for me. I'm just not a fan of so-called primes. I tried them, they did NOT live up to the hype. Modern zooms have passed them by. They are much more versatile, faster to use, and often the image quality is better too. If this was 1979 I'd have a different opinion, but this is 2009 and things have dramatically changed.
    Kent in SD
  16. Love my 24mm f2.8 D lens on my D300. Also have a 55mm f3.5 micro Nikor that has been ai'd by John White that is SHARP!
  17. By their nature, primes should be better than the zooms - they only have to do one thing - and no shunting groups of elements to go out of alignment (apart from the rare CRC models). Primes also have the advantage of being lighter and tougher (metal).
    Last week on holiday I tested my prime lens against an equivelent zoom. The results were rather a suprise. I found the following:
    Lenses tested: Nikon 36-72mm f/3.5 zoom vs Nikon 35mm f/2 prime.
    The zoom lens was almost as sharp as my prime - good detail shown. The colour was good on both lenses, with the zoom being around 95% as good as the prime. The clincher was flare though. With bright sky or sun in the frame, I could detect a loss of contast in the zoom that did not seem to affect the prime. Please note - I did not have a top 'pro' zoom lens to compare - that may be better than my more consumer oriented type.
    I think that it is wonderful that Nikon produces primes and zooms for us to use and enjoy, but for high contast scenes I still feel that the prime lenses have the edge.
  18. Other than speed, smaller and lighter, and some better distortion control, the zooms are competitive with Nikons primes.
    For DX, find a 30 1.8 Nikkor Ais to start.
  19. Scott: to play and experiment with I would recommend a 55 micro 2.8 ais, I got mine for a $100. It does close up but its not a 1:1, very, very sharp, great color and contrast.
  20. I agree. Today the most important aspect of a prime is not its technical quality. Pro zooms are frequently as good or better now. For me, most important is, that a prime forces your creativity, exactly because you have the "wrong" focal length mounted most of the time.
    I admit though, that this forced creativity is not for everybody. Some people like it, for them it works. Some don't like it, for some (e.g. photo journalists) it would be detrimental. I wouldn't use a prime for fast work under uncertain conditions either. Luckily I only produce for my photo blog, not for a living :)
  21. I get superb results from all my old Nikon primes, they are a bargain in my opinion (usually sell for less than $100). I use:
    Nikon 28mm f2.8 AIS
    Nikon 35mm f2 AI
    Nikon 55mm f2.8 AIS Micro-Nikkor
    Nikon 105mm f2.5 K (f32 version with AI factory ring)
    I also have a Nikon 50mm f1.8 E which I don't use too often. I have the Nikon 50mm f1.8 AF-D that I prefer over that one as I no longer use any Nikon manual focus cameras.
    I also have my late fathers Nikon F FTn that he bought new in 1969. With it is a Nikkor-H 50mm f2 and a Nikkor 28mm f3.5 C wide angle lens.
    A Nikkor prime is a Nikkor prime. Even if they do not have the latest coatings, they can still produce brilliant images.
  22. I currently have 3 primes in my bag.
    50 1.4 AF-S - Wonderful lens. I actually like the length on DX for head and shoulders, it also nice on my F100 for walk around. Makes me want a D700 real bad. Very sharp, especially if you stop it down a bit, it starts getting super sharp at f/2. AFS isnt super fast, but its very accurate,this lens almost never hunts.
    180 2.8 - Just a great lens, very sharp. Long enough for some wild-life/sports on DX, but also short enough to frame up things when they get closer.
    300 f/4 - My sports/wildlife lens. I really wish I could afford the AF-S version (aside from the crappy tripod collar) or the 300 2.8 AFS, but this one does me for now. Its very sharp and focuses pretty fast, but if it hunts it really hunts. I get pretty good results w/ teleconverters also.
    Primes I'd really like to add...
    105 VR, 20 2.8D, and if Nikon would ever make it, a 500 f/5.6
    The only zoom I think I'd every really use is the 70-200 VR, but I'm really waiting for an upgrade so it will not vignette on my F100.
  23. I agree with Andreas. I take much better pictures when I put a prime on and leave the zooms at home, because it forces me to think a little more. Sure, I occasionally lose shots. But the shots I get end up being more interesting.
    Whereas, when I have a zoom, I find instead I tend to take a lot more "snapshots"; i.e., hey, there's something interesting, I'll just stop where I am, quickly zoom to how I want it framed, and press the shutter! I don't put any thought into what focal length I WANT to use to capture the best photo. Granted, this is my own fault rather than the lens', but for now, I'll stick with my primes at least until I can learn to think more about focal length and perspective rather than just popping off shots.
  24. So my question of pure opinion, is what primes do you like to use?
    55mm 2.8 AIS Micro Nikkor - because it rocks as a 1:2 micro lens, and works really really well at infinity - pretty sums it up as dual purpose micro/walkaround lens. Affordable. Relatively compact. 1:1 with extension tube.
    300/4 AF-S - Not much choice really. 300/2.8 is too expensive, 70-300VR is one stop slower. Kickass image quality, do not like the bokeh in certain situations. Wish it had VR. Works very well with TC. Built-in hood rocks.
    Which ones would you recomend?
    Focal lenths that YOU use the most often :) For example, I would be very unlikely to use a 35/1.8, 28/2.8 range.
  25. wow, Andreas, I like that you gave me a list of primes you DON'T like, that's very cool.
    from the sounds of things I have a bit more shopping to do, but I've been looking on KEH and have seen quite a few for cheap enough that I won't really feel ripped off if I don't like the lens ($100 or less). There are a few more (like the 10mm fisheye) that I just want to have for that specific special purpose. Then there are lenses like the 50mm f1.4 that it seems everyone agrees on. Thank you all for your input!
  26. Love my Nikon 60mm macro. The Nikon 85mm f1.8 is the sharpest lens I've ever owned and does great portraits (great DOF). Little far on the "close focus" though (with DX it's fairly tele though, so close focus isn't required as often).
    Not so thrilled, though it can take good pictures, with the Nikon 35mm f2. Lots of a CA and some distortion. Not so bad that I'll ditch it, but not as good as it ought to be.
    The 50mm f1.8 is great but, since I shoot a lot of macro, the 60mm makes a better walk around lens.
    As far as the closest quality I've ever seen to a zoom that is a prime (you didn't ask but I'm putting it out there anyway) - the Nikon 35-70mm f2.8...
  27. PS: I've seen a lot of great stuff out of the Sigma 30mm f1.4. The reason I avoided it was because it was DX only and I was trying to leave myself open for FX (of course, who wants to use a 30 or 35mm lens on FX? Yuck.)(Ok, don't flame me - but I don't want to!).
    Quite a few here are from the Sigma 30mm f1.4:
    Some of the best available light wedding photos I've seen there.
  28. 35mm on FX is one I like a lot, though! I shoot at 24mm on DX (the basic equivalent) a LOT!
  29. There was a time of a few months when I was lazy and mostly used zooms. Switching to 12 mpix digital and doing more "slow" work, I realized that I'm getting better quality using carefully selected primes. I'll skip some specialty lenses since you wanted to shoot action, but here are some nice ones:
    Voigtländer 20/3.5 -- tine and performs very well when stopped down (the equivalent Zeiss lenses are better if you want super performance at all paertures).
    Zeiss 25/2.8 -- a very good lens (though not excellent), overall maybe the best choice at this focal length at the moment.

    28/3.5 and 28/2 -- former is dirt cheap and great when stopped down, latter permits operation at larger apertures.
    35/1.4 -- incredible resolution in the center, requires stopping down to get good corners. I still consider this as one of Nikons classics (I've heard good things about the 35/1.8 if you want AF, spend less and onyl cover DX).
    Basically any 50. My choice is actually the 50/1.2 because it offers quite good resolution even at larger apertures and f2 is not a problem. But I often grab the 50/1.4 AF for action and I heard the new one is very good.
    85/1.8, 85/1.4 -- the former has very solid resolution with low vignetting even at larger apertures, the latter slightly more pleasing bokeh and better at the largest apertures.
    Basically any 105. I don't think Nikon made a bad 105. I don't use this focal length that much, though.
    Same goes for 135, except that the 105's seem to be slightly better. I'm hoping Nikon would ever so slightly improve the 135/2 to make a killer lens like Canon.
    As said, I left out a lot of specialty from this list even though specialty is where primes are the only name in town. I would get something like 24-70/2.8 if I would shoot action on a weekly basis, but I don't. For me the 24-70 would really be a matter of convenience, not of image quality, even though that lens is in general no slouch. As always, keep in mind that there are some excellent primes and some just so-so. OTOH, if you get a good deal then even the worse one can get the shot.
  30. bms


    Not necessarily preference, rather frequency of use, and I can all recommend them
    35 f/2 AF-D
    24 f2/8 AF-D
    105 f/2.5
    105 f/2.8 Micro AF-D
    50 f/1.4 AF-D (very soft wide open)
    300 mm f/4
  31. I carry a Zenitar 16/2.8 fish, Sigma 30/1.4, Nikon 50/1.8, 85/1.8 and 180/2.8.
    My ranking of them and how I like the images roughly goes according to focal length.
    If I have enough light and room to use the 180 I will. I've shot sunrises with it without any flare or ghost issues and it's light and small relative to the f/2.8 zooms. Wonderful for portraits, usable for sports but a bit slow on the focus.
    The 85 is just as sharp as the 180 but you do want to avoid blown out-of-focus highlights behind your subject as it will make ugly purple fringes. If you avoid that situation it makes some really nice pictures. I've taken tens of thousands of basketball images with it. In fact I just plain wore out a D50 doing that. I haven't noticed ghosts or flare issues, but avoiding the above situation might be why. Not AF-S but still very fast to focus. The patent on this lens makes a point of the small size of the rear focus group aiding focus speed.
    The 50 is also good, a little softer wide-open than the 85 or 180, and gets used less often mostly because of where it sits in the focal length range.
    I probably use the 30/1.4 more than the others (excepting basketball shooting), but that's a function of shooting low-light indoor stuff where a normal field of view is required. It is a bit soft on the edges as the reviews indicate.
    I don't really recommend the Zenitar, even though I have fun using it occasionally.
  32. Zeiss 85, 135, 35 etc... i can recommend these. i know they are working manuel but they are top of the MTF and bokeh.
  33. I don't see many lenses for $100 at KEH. In fact, I am wondering where did you see the prices of less than $100 for a 28/2.8 AIS or 105/2.5 Dave?
  34. Which ones would you recomend?​
    The 105mm f/2.5 Nikkor. For the money, roughly $150-230 (depending on condition) there is no better lens out there, IMHO. My copy is tack sharp and produces alost ZERO chromatic aberation. Bokeh is also top notch. Seriously, no better lens out there for the money.
  35. Sorry Dieter, I was unclear with my last post. I am shopping around locally, as well as online at places like flea-bay and KEH. I tend to do most of my shopping with KEH (they've always been good to me) so I guess I only said that name. But yes, I am shopping around the local used market.
  36. Three Nikon primes that I much enjoy: 35 mm f/2.0D, 85 mm f/1.8D, 180 mm f/2.8D. I mostly use 17-55 mm f/2.8G and 80-200 f/2.8D zooms (both of which are very good zooms) and select the primes when I'm looking for something lighter to carry or for their special qualities. Images from the 35 mm f/2.0D are especially crisp (great color rendition, zero CA). The 85 mm lens is great for portraits; I've also used the 85 mm f/1.4D -- truly a fabulous lens but also at a fabulous price for a short tele. Nothing beats the sharpness of the 180 mm f/2.8D tele and it is about 1/3 of the weight of the tele zoom.
  37. You should also consider a 14-24 f2.8 AF S zoom. It's the only zoom I own as I'm a big fan of primes. The reason that I bought this lens is because I like to shoot wide and it's the first zoom to out class all of the primes that you can buy within the same focal range.
    It really is that good, It's an astonishing engineering achievement, as a lens it needs to be experienced to be beleived.
    28mm AF D is a good cheap prime that is always in my bag, My 50mm f1.4 AFS G is on my camera 90% of the time but it's not much better than the 50mm f1.4 afd. If you have the AF D its not worth upgrading.
    The 105 f2.5 AIS is very good and great value.As is the 85mm f1.8.
    Two really good primes that are rumored to be released soon in AFS G are the 28mm f1.4 and the 85mm f1.4
    If Nikon release these on to the market they will be on my shopping list for 2010.
  38. For shooting from the hip I would recommend the 35mm f/2.0. Easy and versatile lens, but maybe the crop factor is a bit in the way for you.... A 50mm prime would be great for portraiture on DX. For a bit more distance between you and your model, consider the 85mm f/1.8
  39. I agree that primes make me a better photographer - they make me get off my bum and go looking for a shot - rather than standing there like I am nailed to the floor and zooming in and out while relying on that to compose. Which is what of course I do when I am armed with a zoom instead. (I am a lazy sucker.) But with a prime I have to move and that means I often find the shot that I would not have otherwise seen. My taste runs to longer lenses so my favourite primes are the 50mm f1.4; the 105mm f2.8 micro and the 180mm f2.8. All of which are great specimens in their own right. I also have the 28mm f2.8 AF but while it is OK it is not up to the standard of the other three. From time to time I will also shoot with my MF lenses including various MF versions of the 50mm f1.4 and f2.0; the 105mm f2.5 24mm f2.8; 35mm f2.0; 135mm f2.8 and 200mm f4. I am still slowly building my collection and my next will be an 85mm AF - the 1.8 probably or the 1.4 if I can justify it at the time. If you were to ask me which is presently my best lens then unhestitatingly I would say its the 180mm f2.8 That lens just about knocks your sox off in the quality of the images it turns in.
  40. I agree with most: primes made me more mindful before taking a shot. They make me think better about composition and viewpoints. And because some of them are older designs with less resistance to flare and ghosting, they sure make me think better about light too.
    I use the 35 f/2D, 50 f/1.8D, 85 f/1.8D, AF-S 300 F/4 and a Tokina 100 f/2.8 Macro. Of these, my least favourite is the 50mm. I don't like it as portrait lens on DX, it's too short, too sharp for portraits and the bokeh is not ideal for portraits.
    The 85 f/1.8 is a far better portrait lens; my copy is not hair-splitting sharp below f/4, which for portraits I find better (since skins are never really perfect, except for babies and toddlers).
    I love the 35 f/2. It's got plenty lesser sides (flares, and at f/2 the sides must be rather unsharp since AF on my D300 will not work on the outer AF points, it just hunts). But typically, I use it at f/4-f/5.6, and then it rocks. And I love this focal lenght on DX, it just "clicks".
    The Tokina is a fine macro lens. Sturdy built, easy to use AF/MF switch, MF is well damped, and it's very sharp from f/4 on. Lovely bokeh, really very good. I only use it for macro work, since for all other things the 85 f/1.8 is nicer, in my view.
    But if I'd have to choose 1 prime to keep with me, it would be the 300mm f/4. I love long lenses and I love working with this one. It is sharp at any aperture, built to last and it just feels great. And with a TC, it's a tad more versatile too :)
    On the wishlist... a 24mm, preferably maybe the Zeiss 25mm. I notice I like that focal lenght on DX. And I'd like to have a 105 f/2.5. I do not have any need for it, it does not add anything, but I used one a few times and it just feels so good. And the IQ is brilliant.
    I did consider the 35 f/1.8 DX (as replacement for the f/2), but tests made me see that the IQ difference with the 35 f/2 is too small. If I'd buy now, it would be the DX, but no need to replace the F/2D. Unless I can find the funds for a Zeiss 35mm, or the 35 f/1.4.
    And a longer prime.... well, I can keep dreaming about a 400 f/2.8 or 500 f/4.... probably for a really long time.
  41. You should also consider a 14-24 f2.8 AF S zoom. It's the only zoom I own as I'm a big fan of primes. The reason that I bought this lens is because I like to shoot wide and it's the first zoom to out class all of the primes that you can buy within the same focal range.​
    If this is true, it is quite a sad reality. This just means that Nikon are not investing in primes as they do with zooms but one can always buy Carl Zeiss glass for their Nikon's now.
  42. I'll stick with my "1979" prime lenses any day. The 28/2 AIS, 50/1.4 AIS, 135/2 AIS, 200/2 AI, and 400/2.8 AIS are all excellent. The 200 and 400 are superb even wide open. I use them all on a D2X and full frame Kodak SLRn.
    I do have one modern prime, the 14/2.8 ED AF, also incredibly sharp, but with some moustache distortion that does not rear it's ugly head too often.
    I have recently added a TC-16A for very good autofocus ability and it works very well with the 135, 200, and 400.
    At the right price I might add a 50-300/4.5 AIS or 80-200/2.8 ED AF, or 300/4 ED AF. The zoom would be handy for soccer.
  43. Dieter, these were purchased on ebay. The 105mm f2.5 was purchased as a buy-it-now for $49.99 in mint condition, and then I had a Nikon factory AI ring installed from another 105 in not so mint condition, purchased for $68, and then resold for $77. The deals are out there if you wait for them, although I did pay $150 for my current Nikon 35mm f2 AI lens, because it was in near mint condition and I had owned the AIS version before, and sold it, and decided I preferred the AI version over the AIS version. The only prime I bought that I sold again was the Nikon 45mm f2.8 P lens. I like the look of the images, the out of focus areas are wonderful and very "Leica-ish" if you will. But ergonomically the lens is a nightmare, at least when used on a digital SLR. So I sold it for slightly more than I paid for it. And the 45mm focal length isn't the most exciting when shooting in DX format anyway!
    I too, when shooting with my D700, preferred using manual focus Nikon primes over a zoom. With my D300 however, I prefer the 16-85 Nikon zoom. It's just wonderful.
  44. bmm


    For me, Andreas and ben are on the money.
    Quality is only one of the factors in favour of primes and one that I'm happy to admit is diminishing as zooms get better.
    More important than quality is size - when travelling nothing beats being able to wander around in a city or down and alleyway or in a market with nothing bigger than a 24/2.8 or 35/2 mounted.
    Most important of all though is the "forced creativity" issue that both point out. You simply have to think far more with a prime on board, and consider creative ways to utilise the fixed focal length.
    Oh and to answer the question, my primes are 24/2.8, 35/2, 50/1.4, 85/1.4 and 180/2.8... plus about to get 135/2. The 35/2 and 85/1.4 get the most use - in fact this is my travelling combo. I use a D80 by the way.
  45. I think the new 35mm 1.8 AF-S would be a great prime lens for a DX body. I have the 50mm 1.4 on my FX and love it, it's my favorite lens. I think the 35mm on the DX would be very similar and useful, getting too long and it can limit its uses.
  46. Primes I use:
    28mm/f3.5 Ai'd - so so on FX but perfect walkaround on DX.
    40mm/f2 Voigtlander - extremely sharp pancake lens. Great walkaround on my FM3a. Very short throw so hard to use on a D200
    50mm/f1.4 Ai'd - The Old workhorse for film
    50mm/f1.4 AF-D - Great short portrait lens on my D200
    60mm/f2.8 micro AF-d - A dream of a lens
    105/f2.5 AIS - A perfect lens for FX & DX if ever there were one
  47. Primes I've seen to work very well on DX:
    20/3.5 Voigtländer, 28/2 Ai-S Nikkor, 28/3.5 Nikkor, 35/2(D) AF Nikkor (it's very sharp on DX except at f/2 where there is too much CA; at f/2.8 clearly sharper than the 17-55/2.8 DX), 35/1.8G DX AF-S Nikkor (this is fabulous at wide apertures), 50/1.8(D) AF Nikkor (from f/2.5 on is just fabulous; wide open it is soft), 180/2.8(D) AF Nikkor, 300/4D AF-S Nikkor, 100mm f/2 ZF. There are many more that work well of course, and some that I would not recommend on DX but would recommend for use on FX. E.g. the 105 DC I found to be truly great at f/3.5 or smaller on DX but not wide open whereas on FX it's great at all apertures (well I don't know about f/16, probably crappy at that ...) The 24/3.5 PC-E performs well also on DX but it's such a huge lens to be used as a moderate wide angle I probably wouldn't use it even if I still had a DX camera.
    When using an FX prime with DX there can be flare and ghosting problems that you don't get with FX when the light source is just outside of the frame. With FX you can see where e.g. the sun is in the frame so you can avoid this situation easier - with DX you might have the light source just outside of the DX frame but inside the FX frame, the light bouncing in the lens and contributing to flare and ghosting - it's difficult to assess these effects that are outside of the DX frame through the viewfinder... take test shots when shooting into the light! Anyway, for wide angle I think it may generally be better to use a DX lens on DX rather than an FX lens though some manual focus primes do earn high marks also on DX. Depends on what you're trying to accomplish. Certainly lenses like the 12-24/4 or the 17-55 perform well and are compact solutions with good performance overall. The 50/1.8 does run rings around the 17-55 at 50mm especially at wide apertures though - way sharper. But the 17-55 is very good for portraits at the long end.
    On FX I mostly prefer the primes at all focal lengths except 24mm at which I happen to think the 24-70 is my best lens for wide aperture use. I use the 24-70/2.8 1) to reduce lens changes for my own comfort e.g. in landscape and travel photography 2) generally for event photography when there is enough light for a f/2.8 lens (often there is not, e.g. in churches). The main drawback of the 24-70 is that it's such a huge lens - and of course, f/2.8 can be very limiting for available light shooting.
    For tele, just about any modern prime Nikkor is better than any of their tele zooms on FX, but on DX it is more complicated as most of the tele primes were designed for full frame and the 70-200/2.8 is optimized for DX, resulting in some situations where the 70-200 is better than some of even the latest primes. E.g. at f/2.8 my 70-200 outperformed the 105 DC in the center of the image, and at f/4-f/5.6 at 180mm the zoom had less CA than the 180/2.8D; but even on DX the edge performance of the 70-200 was poor in comparison with the primes (though in some cases it doesn't matter at all). I found the 70-200, just as the 17-55/2.8 DX to be very prone to flare/ghosting and this was its greatest flaw. If you want to see 15 or more UFO/Saturn (for lack of better expressions) shaped ghosts, just point the 70-200 or 17-55 into a point light source in a high contrast lighting situation. Appalling; even the poorest of Nikon primes (e.g. the 28/2.8D AF) gave much better results than the 17-55 when used to photograph a construction site with unshielded work lights at night. The images from the 17-55 were filled with ghosts. Basically this zoom is unsuitable for night urban shooting, unless you want to spend a lot of hours cleaning the ghosts with photoshop - they are numerous and annoying. Under more normal lighting conditions, good to excellent results are obtained with these two zooms on DX. The 24-70, although it is an FX lens, handles these situations much better, perhaps due to its nano-coating. I think Nikon would do well to update the 17-55 with this new technology as soon as possible.
    For superwide the current consensus seems to be that the 14-24 has the best overall performance and the 17-35 is also very highly regarded. I have only briefly used the 14-24 on two occasions and never the 17-35 so I'll just say that the image quality from the 14-24 on FX seemed to be very nice. Low distortion, exceptionally good sharpness across the frame at mid apertures. However, my need to use superwides is very limited and I prefer to have a more compact lens (the 18/3.5 ZF) in my bag, taking less space than the f/2.8 zooms, for those few occasions where I will need to use one. My recommendation is that you avoid Nikon primes in the 14-24 range with the exception of the 24mm PC-E which is a modern design (the 24 PC-E is excellent when stopped down to f/5.6-f/11; wide open on this lens is for composition and focusing only and the image circle starts to get smaller once you go to f/16, not to mention the loss in sharpness due to diffraction). The Zeiss and Voigtländer primes are certainly worthy of consideration for situations where you do not need autofocus. I'm very impressed with the 18/3.5 ZF's even sharpness and contrast across the frame, though it has vignetting wide open so it's not an event lens. The Zeiss is compact compared to the 14-24, and takes filters (at least in principle ... they're 82mm...). The 20mm Voigtländer is tiny and I'd pick one up for DX if I still used that format.
    In summary, I'd say that if you have no interest in moving to FX or using FX cameras in the future, then you may actually be better off using zooms for wide angle since there are so few DX primes available whereas there are modern DX zoom options. This might change in the near future; the 35/1.8 DX just came out a few months ago and seemed in my brief testing (I bought it as a gift to a friend but couldn't resist shooting with it a bit) to be especially suited for available light people photography at wide apertures; very pleasing performance at those settings. If you do have an interest in FX cameras now or in the future, then I think there is a lot to be gained by selecting (carefully!) a set of primes at focal lengths of interest to you, or even a reasonably complete set. This is especially true at normal and telephoto focal lengths. For wide angle, particularly superwide, the main motivation to use a prime in the current situation would be the size and unobtrusiveness as it would be difficult to justify short primes against the top zooms based on purely optical reasons. I sold all my telephoto zooms since I just felt they didn't deliver on FX in a way that justified their existence in my lens collection. This is subjective of course - many find that frequent lens changes are too much of a hassle and prefer to use zooms even for tele. I use wide apertures a lot for telephoto shooting and find that the primes simply deliver better images. Of course there is often the missed shot since the focal length on the camera was wrong. But I only care about the quality of the best shots that I do get and for that reason I will continue to use tele primes for the foreseeable future.
    Anyway, just one photographer's point of view. ;-)
  48. bmm


    Ilkka - thankyou for this interesting, detailed, considered contribution.
    Two other observations, just based on my thoughts and experiences.
    First, on this issue of 'missed shots'. We all miss 99.99% of shots because we cannot be all places at all times. I am far more likely to miss something cool because I turn one way rather than the other when in some foreign alleyway than because of the glass I have on my camera. So I've stopped worrying about this at all - especially as I am not a professional photojournalist that has some 'duty to document'. My view is that I have a chosen tool in my hand, a particular situation in front of me, and out of the combination I make whatever humble attempts at creating something decently artistic that I can.
    Second, more practically, in my own early experience one of the most valuable accessories to prime lenses is a humble note-pad and pen. Why? Because I am quite happy shooting a composition which is not the entire frame and getting an effective zoom (admittedly at the cost of a few pixels), jotting down what my creative intention was, and then cropping to my original idea in post. I know some people are paranoid about retaining the full MP resolution in every shot and will therefore only ever contemplate the 'crop via glass' solution of zooms, but not being so strict on this immediately releases the perceived shackles of prime shooting... and in my own experience 2 or 3 primes and a camera in a small bag, and an accompanying willingness to crop, are the makings of a really good photographic experience.
  49. I like the 20mm f/2.8 AF and the 24mm f/2 manual focus primes. I've owned some other manual primes but the quality was inferior.
    Advantages of primes:
    - Depth of field scale (why can't this be automated on G lenses?)
    - Very little distortion
    - Clarity of purpose (it is what it is)
    - Forces you to compose by moving around, often with better results than turning a ring.
    - Compact size.
    - Ruggedness (especially manual focus lenses). I've never handled a zoom lens that compares favorably to the build quality of a good manual focus prime.
    - Better focusing rings (manual focus lenses). Designed for your hand, not some flimsy little motor.
    - Switching lenses (only a problem on dust-sensitive digital cameras).
    P.S. I also use medium and large format cameras where it's all prime all the time.
  50. I found a Vivtar 28mm (I think it's f/2) that I will be picking up locally for $30 tomorrow. I'm excited to start playing. Anyone used this lens? It looks like this one:
    I hate to say it, but I pretty much saw it and went "oooh, pretty..." and decided on it before I've gotten to test it. Aesthetically it's a neat looking lens.

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